I hate mandatory minimum sentencing. Even when I was a prosecutor, I hated it. I hate it because it takes away the discretion of our judiciary. I hate it because it often forces prosecutors to take weak cases to trial, resulting in wasted money, time, and effort.
I hate it because many good non-violent people who have no criminal history accused of non-violent crimes end up serving decades in prison, all because a frighteningly out-of-touch legislature believes that the appearance of being a state that's "tough on crime" is more important than the lives that are destroyed by these laws.
Politics before people is always a dangerous policy.
Mandatory minimum sentences are enacted by the legislature as a way of ensuring that certain types of offenders serve mandatory prison time. That is, certain offenses require that the judge impose a mandatory prison sentence. Only the State Attorney can waive the mandatory minimum, which could be the result of a plea negotiation.
Mandatory minimum sentences mean that you will serve every single day of your sentence. You do not get gain time for mandatory minimum sentences. If you are in county jail pending trial or are waiting in county jail pending transfer to state prison, you will get credit toward your sentence as that is considered to be "in custody." However, if you are out of custody and are sentenced to a mandatory prison term, you will serve day-for-day time, instead of getting the 85% gain time that you are awarded by law in Florida.
Mandatory minimums exist in a number of fashions. For some offenses, mandatory sentencing applies based on your prior record. For instance, if you are a Prison Releasee Reoffender (PRRP), or Habitual Violent Offender (HVO), you will get mandatory prison time depending on the degree of offense you are accused of committing.
On the other hand, you can still face mandatory prison time even without a prior criminal record.
Trafficking in the State of Florida carries mandatory minimums for every controlled substance. Most notably, trafficking in prescription drugs carries the harshest mandatory sentences.
Imagine you are injured playing sports and a doctor prescribes OxyContin (oxycodone) for the pain. You take OxyContin until your prescription runs out. Unfortunately, you become addicted to the painkiller and begin to obtain it without a doctor's prescription. One night you purchase about 120 pills. You do not intend to sell these pills or distribute them to anybody else. You plan to stash these away and take them for yourself. However, you are arrested, the pills are weighed, and the weight comes out to over 28 grams. You are charged with trafficking in oxycodone/28 grams or more
, and are now facing a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence. The State Attorney refuses to waive the mandatory minimum, you go to trial and are found guilty. The judge has no choice but to sentence you to 25 years in prison.
Injustices such as this are not the work of fiction. Non-violent first-time offenders are ordered to serve mandatory prison time every single day in the State of Florida.
I support an organization called Families Against Mandatory Minimums
, and I advise that you check out their website. This is an organization comprised of the family members of accused people who have been sentenced to mandatory prison time.
As a criminal defense attorney, I am always committed to getting mandatory minimum sentences waived. If you or a loved one are facing a mandatory minimum sentence for a criminal case in Miami-Dade or Broward, call me